Monday, July 17, 2017

The Chicks have Hatched!

Our Second Brood

We recently purchased a commercial version of a home incubator. A fancy way of saying a nice styrofoam box to hatch out chickens. We picked this up our local Del's Tractor Supply (no they don't sell tractors.) This one was the top of the line they had in stock. The Farm Innovator's Digital Circulated Air Incubator with Egg Turner.
 It has a thermostatically controlled heater, a circulating fan to reduce hot and
cool spots, a tray with room for 41 eggs, a motorized egg turner so we wouldn't have to, a lower set of water channels for maintaining the proper humidity, and small weave hardware cloth to keep the chicks out of the channels and the water once they'd hatched. It also has a large viewing window for watching the process, and a control module that keeps track on monitoring/ displaying the temperature, humidity % and the number of days left for incubation. Temp of the heater is preset, but you can change it to whatever you want in 1/2 degrees from, I believe, 98.5-101.  You can also set the egg hatch time for using this for turkey, quail, geese or any other bird's eggs.
This product did all it said it would, turned the eggs, though initially this mechanism was a bit loud, I was able to get it whisper quiet by applying a touch of Vaseline to the gear tracks. Didn't make a sound after that. 
We loaded up 41 fertilized eggs in to the unit and set it to work. After a week we candled the eggs, BTW- they provide a Candler! - and found that of the 41, 40 had embryos! We kept the 41st to check again at the next candling date, just in case. Second check same as the first. 40 developing embryos one clear egg. Third candling showed us only dark forms in the shell, and the outline of a very clear air spot. We could see movement, but no real definition through the brown shells. 

We were a bit surprised on the the first two chicks arrival since they hatched out a day early. Along with the new incubator, we tried setting eggs the commercial way. That is, chilling a number of eggs for a number of days to try to get them all to hatch out on the same single day. Whoops- didn't work so well at first. 

The next day was busy for the chicks- most of them hatched out this day- we had 12 eggs not hatching. We did get two more from this group to hatch out after midnight, so a total of 31 of the 41 we set actually hatched. We had one pip out that later died, but over all a hatch rate of 73.1 % or a 50% increase over our first time! Lightening is getting better at this the older he gets.  

We did get three chicks with Splay. This is a ligament stretching that leaves the chicks with their feet "splayed" out hence the name. They have a hard time standing since the ligaments are out of place. Most people with these chicks cull them out, but we are trying to fix this so we can keep the chicks in the flock. So far it is promising. we should only have to treat these little ones for another day or so. They are already up and walking, even hobbled as they are with the soft band-aid 'brace".

We are starting a Korean Farming Method of raising our chickens. We've been attending classes at the Hawaiian Sanctuary and per their instructions, we started them off by feeding them Brown Rice for the first three days. We start the boiled egg yolks for them tomorrow. And finally, we are moving them into their new home today, the red brooder in the coop, to get used to the hens they will eventually be flock mates with.

We have another new item to keep them warm; a brooder heating plate. 
Rather than a light that can burn out or worse, start a fire, we have a new flat plate heater that we can adjust the height as the chicks grow.  They are under it now, so I thin they'll be fine using it one we set it in the coop. This should comfortably fit all 30 of the new chicks and I will post an up date soon! 

Next: Growing chicks and prepping the new runs.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Whats happening here

Something other than Chickens

What do you mean,"other than chickens?"

 Yeah, there is life other than chickens at our little one acre farm. Today, JoAnn and I got the log moving system perfected. Let me go flashback a bit to explain and get you up to speed on this. One of our good friends, Julia  introduced us to couple that had just gotten their Rainbow Eucalyptus cut down, but the tree guys left it laying in their driveway. Our friends knew I had a chainsaw and thought, how nice it would be if we could go over and cut up the tree and haul it off for them. If you've never seen one, the Rainbow variety of the eucalyptus is stunning while alive, sporting an exterior set of reds, greens, some yellows and a few shade of the above. The inner wood is a rich set of browns, and pale off whites when dry. This photo is not me, nor my friends but it was the best non-"enhanced" picture of the tree I am speaking of. It can grow quite large, 'ours being 30" and the base to about an 18-20" diameter for the smallest segment. 

The things we didn't have
We cut the trees (there were two) into 8' lengths that I would estimate at about a ton each. There were a total of 6 pieces at this length, with a single one of about 5' being cut up into 6" stepping "stone" slices for our friends. The last of that log went to Glenn and Julia for their garden as a bench project. We then had the fun of figuring out how we were going to get these things off the ground and onto my puny pick up truck. 

I had a chainsaw, a tow chain, an O'o Bar which is a large prying lever, some rope, and a come-along. I like to think that I can sometimes be a bit smarter that a log, so I thought, "what would an ancient do?" I came up with this: 
Enlarge the photo to see a tripod made of 2) 4" x 4" x 96" wood and one 2" x 4" x 96" bracing leg held together with a 5?8" galvanized bolt. With this contraption we are now able to get the log up off the ground, one end at a time, Balance it in the air, drive the truck under it to wedge it on the bed, where we then use the O'o bar to hold it in place as we re set the chain to the rear of the log still on the ground. Lifting this last end up, we can then pressure the log to slide on the plastic bed liner. It is working so well that we actually got two logs today! It's been a week of building the a frame, testing it, lifting the logs, cutting the stepping stones, delivering them. Then working out the lifting procedure for logs that weight way more than my truck, let alone what it is supposed to handle carrying. 

 JoAnn is standing by the truck here with the last log we hauled today still inside the bed. We attached the log to a stump I had left for this reason, and I simply drove out from under the log.  It bounced a bit  but it was easily put into place next to the others.

SO what am I going to do with 8 ft logs? Ahh- the 64$ question. I am going to mill them into dimensional lumber and build some furniture out of them. I have plans for a behind the couch table, and a custom door to name just 2. Stay tuned for that adventure!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

13 Mile Farm Tour

Our Tour 

Smell Free is possible!

Farm Classes every Thursday Morning
JoAnn and I signed up and attended a two part class at Hawaiian Sanctuary "Starting a Poultry Flock"  by Chris Hardenbrook, Owner of 13-Mile Farm. During the class he mentioned that his farm was smell and fly free and neither of us really believed that statement. We have been fighting flies since we got the chickens and we don't want to be bad neighbors so we were eager to talk to him more about this.  We waited after class to talk about arranging a farm tour and a few anxious days later we were very excited to meet up with Chris. After getting lost once on the way, (it turns out that 13 mile road isn't really on any of the Hawaii maps), but we got there after a few clear directions by phone. 

A little history: I grew up in an area that raised chickens for the some of the big commercial brands, Zacky and Foster Farms were the biggest, and the ranchers that raised the birds would muck out their barns once a year with a backhoe / loader. Their idea of manure management at the time was to raise a full year of chickens then clean the barns out once a year.
Though we were miles away, we always knew when they were mucking out to reload the barns with chicks because of the odor after the tractors pulled the knee deep refuse out. You really couldn't get away from it and even miles upwind wasn't safe. Needless to say, I had my doubts about a smell free, fly free system of any kind working at all.

Walking up to the pens, Chris told us he had 200 chickens in a converted greenhouse that he divides up based on age.  He keeps the young chicks and poults separate from the laying hens, both having separate grassy pasture areas for themselves.
Based on my youthful experience, 200 chickens should smell pretty ripe especially since he maintains a 'deep litter' system. In my head that means lots of uncleaned out poop that = smelly.  

Wow, what a deal. I didn't smell anything but jungle foliage and earth until I was in the pen standing among the birds. The smell of chickens was there, but not of chicken manure. I couldn't believe that that many birds smelled like a small fraction of them. It was amazing! The floor was indeed thick with bedding- straw, dirt and mulch  to about 6".
He stated that he adds a bit of straw as needed which worked out for him about once a month; a little handful here and there and that was it. I really can't tell you how clean this smelled, and it would be folly to try since there is now such thing as smell-a-vision for your proof. All I can say is if you are wanting to go smell free to call and visit someone's farm in person that
employs the KNF [Korean Natural Farming] method of Deep Litter husbandry. It is not just about letting the floor accumulate bedding material and feces, but the carefully controlled micro-organism soup application in KNF that makes the magic possible. Cleaning out the pens is done quarterly, with 2/3rd's of the litter going directly on the garden or into the mulch piles making a valuable resource out of used chicken feed! the remaining 1/3rd charges up the litter with the beneficial bacteria.

You must / need to experience this for yourself! Yes, there were a few flies, but with the smell so unobtrusive they weren't nearly as numerous as they should have or could have been for the number of chickens!

I am sold. I will be using this method on our chicken run expansion for day one, and I am convinced that we can be as smell and fly free as a chicken pen can be. I'll keep you posted on this one.